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Russian protesters released

March 6, 2012

Russian authorities release protesters arrested at an anti-Putin rally in Moscow. Questions about the legitimacy of the president-elect's victory remain.

Police detain a participant during an opposition protest
Image: Reuters

Many of the protesters who were arrested during a post-election demonstration in Moscow have been released, as three prominent Russian opposition figures were been ordered to appear in court on Tuesday.

Anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny told the AFP news agency that he was among dozens of demonstrators who had been held in custody through most of the night. Sergei Udatsov also confirmed that he had been released.

The two opposition figures were facing fines of up to 2,000 rubles (51 euros, $67) for allegedly violating laws governing the right of assembly. A third opposition leader, Ilya Yashin, was facing a maximum of 15 days in jail for allegedly disobeying the rules for staging a rally.

Opposition groups said 20,000 demonstrators had turned out on Pushkin Square on Monday night to protest the result of Sunday's presidential election, which current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won outright with almost 64 percent of the vote. Police said only 14,000 had taken part in the protest.

The rally was mainly peaceful, but it ended when police decked out in riot gear moved in to break up the demonstration, after some of the protesters refused to leave, saying they intended to stay put until Putin left office.

Fairness of the polls questioned

The legitimacy of Sunday's vote has been called into the question, with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe saying their observers found it had been skewed in Putin's favor.

Western leaders have also criticized how the polls were conducted.

Opposition protests in Moscow following Vladimir Putin's victory in presidential elections # 06.03.2012 00 Uhr # Journal (englisch) # nicht im Mediacenter

The European Union's foreign policy coordinator, Catherine Ashton, called on Russia to address the "shortcomings" observed by election monitors.

US State Department spokeswoman called on Russia to carry out an "independent, credible investigation" into any irregularities.

Germanytoo criticized how the election was carried out. A government spokesman told reporters in Berlin that the vote was "what we are familiar with in other parts of Europe." However, Chancellor Angela Merkel used a television conversation with the Russian president-elect to express her "good wishes for his upcoming term in office."

pfd/acb (dpa, AFP, Reuters)